Q&A: ALMS Driver Tommy Milner
From his debut in 2006 at age 20, driving for the Panoz factory team, to his move to Rahal Letterman Racing and BMW Team RLL followed by his now budding career at Corvette Racing, Milner has gone from “Tom Milner’s son” to one of America’s brightest sports car talents.
He won the hearts of the Corvette nation with a GTE Pro win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011 and continued to fill the trophy case in 2012 with his first four ALMS race wins and an ALMS championship. What else is Milner hoping to add to his resume?
Question: Has anything changed for you since becoming a 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n GT champion?
Milner: Nothing has changed, really. I have a new trophy and a sense of pride of the accomplishment, but that is a memory now. Now I’m focused on 2013 and beyond, and trying to make that as successful as 2012 was. I don’t know if this is common for a lot of drivers, but after the season was over I already started worrying in some way about the next race and how I could get the next win!
Question: How did you grow as a driver in 2012?
Milner: I think my biggest area of improvement this year was in many ways mental. After getting my first win in the ALMS at Long Beach, I no longer had a race win looming over my head, but that change in mentality started at Sebring already. We were very competitive at Sebring and in many instances I felt like we were, for the first time in my career in the ALMS, as quick as anyone else on the track and we had a chance to win on speed. After those races, I was able to really focus on the process of a race weekend -maximizing my potential and the car’s potential – while working with Oliver and free from distractions. I set out in 2012 determined to improve, and I took the steps necessary to do that.
Question: What are you still learning as a driver?
Milner: I’m still learning about myself and learning about where my weaknesses are and how to improve them. Fortunately, I have some fantastic teammates and a family really at Corvette Racing, where I’m in a situation where I can work on those areas, as we all do. The environment at Corvette Racing is fantastic and I think that’s a huge part of the success they’ve had. Gary Pratt has built a team with some really smart and really great people to achieve the success they have. I’m able to learn and improve at every event, and that is rewarding and fun.
Question: What has impressed you most about the Corvette Racing operation?
Milner: I’m impressed at the determination to win at every position. Rarely do I hear anyone within the team talking or moaning about other teams and cars. Almost all of the attention is turned on each person individually and as a team to make sure that we are looking at every aspect of the program and finding ways to improve. The fine details are not left to chance. That is the most impressive part of the team – well, and maybe the thousands and thousands of Corvette enthusiasts who show their support whether at the track or at home.
Question: You’ve won Le Mans and an ALMS championship. What accomplishments are you aiming for next?
Milner: More of those! Really, I enjoy sports car racing and endurance racing so I’d love a chance to compete in a prototype. An overall win at Le Mans would be incredible for sure. I am a car guy at heart though, so I have an itch to compete in other motorsport arenas, especially off-road stuff. Baja 1000 or Dakar would be high on the list of goals. Global Rally Cross is gaining ground and those cars are nuts. I’d love the competition and racing on a road course in a stock car, too. More driving is fine with me!
Question: Who do you think will be Corvette’s stiffest competition in 2013?
Milner: Who won’t be stiff competition? Honestly, while we will lose a great competitor in Flying Lizard, I have a feeling there will be plenty of teams and manufacturers battling harder than ever and the racing will be as close as ever. It’s the last year for the sixth-generation Corvette C6.R and the Corvette Racing team will maximize that car, but we’ll have some big competition from the Vipers next year and huge battles with Porsche and Ferrari as usual. It’ll be a championship to watch, I’m sure.